Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Substitute Teachers

Is that a random enough title for you? =)

Yesterday as Xoe and I were doing our math lesson, Rowyn came in needing help with something. I asked Xoe to finish the exercise she was working on while I followed Rowyn out to see what he needed. I came back in two minutes later to a cackling almost-5-year-old who had worked ahead into today's lesson. What, you wonder, lured her so irresistibly? Addition. I laughingly related this to David last night, and his question was, "Did she do it right?" (Keeping in mind we're still in our first month of kindergarten.)

I was happy to report that she did indeed get them all right. Yes, this is still the addition that comes complete with hash marks to count, but still. She recognized that they were addition problems, saw how to fill them in herself, and correctly added them together. Not bad for a kid not even five!

Talking about it got my honey reminiscing about how he worked ahead in Algebra once when he had a substitute, who just laid out a few basics and said, "Go ahead!" To which I replied, "Mr. Twigg, right? I remember him giving a speech once about how English was good and necessary, but math--math was actually useful." LOL

Thoughts of good ol' Mr. Twigg had me thinking about the roles substitutes can play in the life of a school child (something my kids won't often have the pleasure of, mwa ha ha ha). I remember Mr. Twigg in particular. He was a full time sub, filling in somewhere in the county every day. We all loved him. He made us work, but he always put a different spin on things. Like letting us work ahead, telling us what he really thought about subjects . . . and showing us how to apply it to life in ways our regular teachers didn't do. Perhaps it was because he was from a different generation, who knows. Whatever the reason, I remember him as well as or better than I remember my regular teachers.

You know one of the best lessons he ever taught me in my 7th grade pre-algebra class? What makes a good handshake, and how a handshake helps make a good impression. No, that has nothing to do with math. But it has to do with life, and no one else ever bothered to teach us something as simple as "Don't let your hand be a dead fish, but don't squeeze the life out of the other person. Firm, but not hard. It shows strength and confidence." He had ever single student come up and shake his hand (would that even be allowed today??? LOL), and he critiqued us.

Maybe the lesson stuck because I could tell from his critiques that it really did show a person's character. And you can bet that every time I shake someone's hand, somewhere in the back of my mind I hear, "Don't let your hand be a dead fish, but don't squeeze the life out of the other person. Firm, but not hard."

Do you have any lessons you remember that came not from a regular teacher, but from a sub?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Remember When . . . People Were Nice? Part II

Do you all remember a while back when I told you about the awesome Greek jeweler who's letting me use his jewelry designs on my book cover? If not, that original story is here. But of course, the story hasn't stopped. =)

I emailed Aris again to ask if he has high res photos my designer could use, feeling like a total bother for asking. But Aris, being a wonderful gent, immediately sent me a whole slew of photos from different angles. He also said if we needed anything more, to let him know, though he'd be leaving Athens next week for an extended business/pleasure trip. Including a stop in Paris. At the Louvre. Where his lions' head designs, like the ones I'm using, are going to be sold in the gift shop. Of the Louvre. OF THE LOUVRE!!! Is that not the coolest thing ever?

He also added me to his website, which is also cool. Not as cool as the Louvre, but very cool nonetheless. =)

What I really love about his designs is that they're based on Ancient Greek artifacts and museum pieces, so they all have that flavor of being centuries old. My hubby and I spent an hour browsing his site the other day, just gaping in awe over all the cool stuff he has.

So that's been my excitement for the week. (The Louvre!!!!!!) Just had to share. And given that my designer is now--even now--working on the front cover for Jewel of Persia, I will soon have MORE awesome news to share.

(Sorry I didn't have a fun historical tidbit, but I have instead a headache. And you know. This has to do with my historical novel, so . . . hope you care, LOL. Because THE LOUVRE!!!) ;-)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Story Time . . . THE HEALER'S APPRENTICE by Melanie Dickerson

When destiny sleeps, it can only be awakened by true love's kiss.
Rose owes everything to Frau Garusha, the town's healer. Not only has the learned woman educated Rose in reading and writing, but now she has taken her on as apprentice, effectively freeing her from her mother's oppressive matchmaking. Rose is grateful to have the choice not to marry--if only she liked the healing arts a bit more. If the smell of blood did not make her nauseous. How will she ever prove to Frau Garusha that she can be healer if she keeps messing up?

Wilhelm is the eldest son of the duke and so has responsibility. He has been fed it from birth and knows--has always known--what he must do. He must serve his people. Part of that involves marrying the daughter of a neighboring duke, Lady Salmonea. He has never met his bride, yet years of his life has revolved around her. Or rather, around freeing her. Her parents were forced to put her into hiding when she was but a babe, after the evil sorcerer Moncore threatened to unleash his demons upon her. He must find Moncore and so make the world safe for his betrothed--and if he fails at that, how will he prove himself worthy of the responsibility that will someday be his?

When Rose is forced to stitch up one of Wilhelm's wounds after a hunting incident, both recognize the immediate connection--respect and admiration, colored with something more. Both also know nothing can come of it. So when Wilhelm's younger brother showers attention on Rose, it seems the safer place to direct her attention. If only it were so easy. And if only she didn't seem to attract danger every time she turned around these days . . .

Two words for you: Oh wow. I was intrigued by the description of The Healer's Apprentice from the get-go--I mean, how could I not be? It's billed as a retelling of a fairy tale, and I've always been a sucker for them. And from the get-go, this book is one that just sweeps you away into the lovely little hamlet with its secrets and intrigue.

The characters are so compelling--determined to succeed, constantly battling failure, needing to be loved but needing even more to love others and fulfill their duties. Then there are the ones after only their own gain, their own desires, no matter the cost to others. I loved how true to the morals of the day the hero and heroine were, how much the smallest gesture could mean to them.

The plot was quick-moving and intriguing. Given that I knew from the start it's based upon a fairy tale, I could determine fairly quickly how the major plot-points would go--but there was no way I could anticipate all the twists and turns, all the gasps and sighs, that the author would take before delivering us to Happily Ever After.

The Healer's Apprentice is not just a romance--it's a story of love at its truest. It is not just a young adult novel--it's a story that appeals to what our teens most crave today and then shines the light of the Lord upon it. It's not just a fairy tale--it's a portrait of our darkest fears and our brightest dreams.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Whether for the young adult crowd it's aimed at or the adult reader who needs to escape with a story of intrigue, destiny, and heart-stopping romance, The Healer's Apprentice delivers with a resounding bang. This one goes on the must-read pile.

*I received this book free for reviewing purposes. (Though I'm now going to go buy one for my niece. ;-)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Modern . . . Preferences

Yesterday I finally, finally finished cutting and editing Jewel of Persia--and boy am I happy to be done with that for a while! Still love the story, but boy howdy. That was a lot of work, LOL. For those who are curious, the final manuscript checks in at 155K, which means I cut 25K even while adding probably 5-10K in the concluding chapters. Good. Enough. =)

So, contemporary stuff. I've done so little with contemporaries lately that it's hard to know what to talk about on Mondays. So I thought I'd talk about that. =)

A few years ago, my agent encouraged me to work more on contemporaries, since they were selling better. These days, it seems that historicals are selling better. It seems to be a bit of a yo-yo, and I figure contemps will swing back up at some point. I love writing historicals, but there are some stories I just have to set today.

But here's my question to you--when you sit down with a contemporary, where do you tend? Women's fiction? Straight-up romance? Romantic suspense? Romantic comedy? Mystery? Suspense? Thriller? Young Adult? Literary? General fiction? Something else I'm not thinking of now?

When I read a contemporary novel, it's usually in the romance category, though it might have comedy or suspense or something tacked on. I read women's fiction, but they're usually not where I tend of my own free will. (My free will doesn't always factor into my reading decisions though, given my reviewing and endorsing and, well, just wanting to support my awesome friends.) I very rarely delve into straight mystery or straight suspense.

But, wow, just looking at that list--there's such a looooooong list of contemporary subgenres! Yet "historicals" tend to all get bunched together. I mean, we historical writers will divide them, but look at a contest's categories sometime.

So, whether it's what editors are looking for right now or not, contempraries are obviously a force to be reckoned with. Which sub-genre is your favorite?

Winner!

And the winner of Darlene Franklin's A Woodland Christmas is . . .

Debra! (debracollins@ . . .)

Congrats, Debra! I just sent you an email.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Friend Trish - Interview & Giveaway

Today I'm psyched to welcome one of my absolute favorite authors to my blog--Trish Perry! If you haven't picked up one of her books yet, you are SO missing out. And if you have, then surely you adore her as I do. Laughs, love, and our Lord--does it get any better than that?

Trish has offered a copy of The Perfect Blend to one lucky reader, so as usual, leave your comments below with an email address. Please make sure you're a follower, too.

~*~

About The Perfect Blend

Steph Vandergrift left everything to elope with Middleburg attorney Rick Manfred, who then stood her up at the altar. Too embarrassed to return home, Steph hopes to earn enough to get by until she can decide what to do next. Tea Shop owner Milly Jewel hires her and appreciates the extra help at the tea shop.

Also appreciative of Steph is Kendall James, one of the kindest, most eligible bachelors in the area. But by the time Steph feels able to consider dating again, her run-away fiancé returns and tries to win her back. Steph is wary, but she and Rick always blended so well.

Christie Burnham, the frank-talking equestrian from whom Steph rents a room, and her frillier sister Liz become fast friends and confidantes to Steph. Between the two sisters, there isn't much any man is going to pull over on Middleburg's newest bachelorette and tea shop employee.

~*~

About Trish

Award-winning novelist Trish Perry has written The Perfect Blend (2010), Sunset Beach (2009), Beach Dreams (2008), Too Good to Be True (2007), and The Guy I’m Not Dating (2006), all for Harvest House Publishers. Her monthly column, “Real Life is Stranger,” appeared in Christian Fiction Online Magazine during its inaugural year. She was editor of Ink and the Spirit, the newsletter of Washington D.C.’s Capital Christian Writers organization (CCW), for seven years. Before her novels, Perry published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media. She will release several new books in 2011.

Perry holds a B.A. in Psychology, was a 1980s stockbroker, and held positions at the Securities and Exchange Commission and in several Washington law firms. She serves on the Board of Directors of CCW and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.

~*~

What's your latest book?

The Perfect Blend, Book One in The Tea Shop Series (Harvest House Publishers), released on September 1.

I ask that as if I'm not currently reading it, LOL. And often laughing out loud while reading it, I might add. What's your favorite part of the story?


Of course I love the happy ending the most. But when reading my galleys, I found myself chuckling over the scene in a dog grooming shop (my heroine tries working at a number of different shops in town). I enjoyed that scene as a reader.

Shhh—I'm right at that part but haven't read it yet. Now I want to ignore all the work I have to do and sit down with it! Sheesh, Trish. Thanks a lot. ;-) Is there a theme to this book?


I never set out with a theme or message when I begin my books. But something always emerges as my characters learn about life and love. This particular book ended up being about acceptance, how our natural need for the acceptance of others can influence our decisions in life. The message that emerged has to do with God’s obvious acceptance of us, demonstrated by His amazing sacrifice on our behalf.

I love those themes that emerge organically. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

Most definitely I prefer writing romantic comedy. The humor in my novels is less slapstick than it was in my earlier books. It’s more subtle now, but that hasn’t really been deliberate. It’s simply a matter of how the characters behave. I wouldn’t be surprised if things changed again in future books. It all depends on whom God puts on my heart and in my imagination.

With regard to reading, I always need a fun, light, romantic comedy here and there in my reading list. If I read too many heavy books in a row I stop appreciating them. I’m the same way with films. But I do enjoy literary novels, experimental fiction, historical fiction, and women’s fiction, among other genres. I don’t tend to pick up mysteries or suspense as often as I used to, but I still enjoy them. I don’t read many sci-fi/fantasy novels, either, but I’m game for almost anything. I enjoyed the Twilight series as if I were a teenaged girl, but I won’t read anything closer to horror than that.

Oh, right! Twilight came up when I admitted to loving it in my interview on your blog last spring. =) Here's to regressing to teen-dom for Twilight! What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?


Just today I finished Australian author Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda, which was quite a slog. And I’m going to start Candice Speare’s Murder in the Milk Case. I can tell that will be a fun, quick read, after which I’ll read whatever my local book club chooses when we get together this week. I’m hoping it won’t be dark—we’ve read some pretty dark tales these past couple of months. I need a break!

I can imagine! Here's hoping they opt for exactly what you need. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?


My dream office would look as if I had a secretary organizing my clutter and keeping me beautifully on track.

My real writing environment makes it clear that secretary lives in another dimension.

Wiley secretaries—yours must live in the same dimension as mine. And my maid. And my gardener. And—okay, next question. If someone were to give you $5,000 to spend on anything you wanted, what would you buy? (No saving or gifts to charities allowed!)


I really like that you have to make that stipulation to your interviewees to keep them from doing that (or at least claiming they would do that, says the cynic). Okay, if I can’t save it or give it away, I’m going to get really shallow. I can’t remember the last time I felt comfortable just shopping. I never go trawling through shopping malls, truly, because I don’t feel flush enough to simply shop. These days I’m sure most people can relate. But recently I needed to do some mall shopping with my son, who left for his freshman year at college. Just seeing all of the cool clothes, shoes, and jewelry in the display windows made me itchy enough to say to my son, “It would be kind of nice to be rich.” So hand it over, Roseanna. I’m off to the mall.

Uhhhh, I didn't say I had said money. We're assuming it drops from the sky—in which case, there better be enough for me to come shopping with you! (And for reference, the very first author to send my interview back inserted that 'no charity' clause—I just kept it, LOL.) Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?


How funny. I was just thinking about that day this morning. Back in 2005 I was in my office and chatting with a girlfriend on the phone. I had just told her that I wasn’t worried anymore about when or if I got a book contract. That day I had decided it would happen eventually if it was God’s will. I had barely finished my sentence when I saw an email pop up on my screen. It was from my agent, who had been trying to reach me (but I was on the phone talking about waiting on God’s will). The email said I had just won a two-book contract (my first). Isn’t that cool? God’s so awesome. I broke into an immediate sweat, babbled almost incoherently to my girlfriend, and, after we both jumped up and down screaming for a few seconds, got right off the phone and called my agent back.

That's too cool—and I can't tell you how often I've heard stories about the contract coming right when you say, “Okay, God, I'm not worrying about it anymore.” So what are you writing right now?


This week I sent Harvest House my manuscript for Tea for Two, Two in The Tea Shop Series. Naturally, it’s set in the same charming little town, and it involves two wayward teens, their father (a young farmer who provides fresh produce to the tea shop), and his budding romance with the psychological counselor who tries to provide counseling to the teens without their figuring out what she’s doing.

Now I’m working on Unforgettable, a romantic comedy set in the 1950s, for Summerside Press’s new romance line called When I Fall in Love. Unforgettable is about a ballroom dance instructor who becomes involved with a former World War II fighter pilot (now a newspaper reporter). Their mutual experiences bring them from Arlington (just outside Washington, D.C.) to Manhattan, and they discover love along the way.

Oh, soooo cool! Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

Both Tea for Two and Unforgettable are scheduled for release in the spring. My third spring release is a devotional I wrote with four fabulous authors (Kristin Billerbeck, Sandie Bricker, Diann Hunt, and Debby Mayne), called Delight Yourself in the Lord . . . Even on Bad Hair Days (Summerside Press). That was such a fun project, and I think it will be well received.

~*~

Thanks so much for visiting, Trish! Everybody be sure to check out her website at www.TrishPerry.com. You can order her book from Amazon or CrossPurposes.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 9/30/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Promises

You know one thing I love about the Bible? You can't open it up without finding God's promises and encouragement. You can't read about despair without hope chasing on its heels.

As everyone returned from the ACFW conference this week, I was smacked with a few moments of jealousy. I decided not to go this year based on prayer, and I know I made the right decision. We took a family vacation instead, and a glorious week at the beach (with absolutely perfect weather) for the four of us and both sets of parents was less expensive than conference would have been for me. And it was awesome.

But still, when I heard everyone else talking about the wonderful people they got to meet, the connections they made . . . well, I had to put myself in time out. I took my Bible out to the swing and let God give me a talking to. Asked him to remind me that he knew what I needed and was working on getting me there.

I asked him to give me an appropriate Bible passage, and opened up to II Kings 3. This is just after Elisha receives the spirit of Elijah--the kings of Judah, Israel, and Edom are all going to war against Moab, but there isn't any water for their soldiers. They call on Elisha, asking him to beseech God for water. He replies in 3:18:

"And this is a simple matter in the sight of the Lord; He will also deliver the Moabites into your hand."

Okay--so not only will God provide what I need, what I ask for, he'll give me complete victory. Something I know, but a reminder I needed.

This was Tuesday. On Wednesday I turned to Isaiah 27:2-4:

In that day sing to her,
"A vineyard of red wine!
I, the Lord, keep it,
I water it every moment;
Lest any hurt it,
I keep it night and day.
Fury is not in me.
Who would set briers and thorns
Against me in battle?
I would go through them.
I would burn them together. . . ."

This was awesome too. As soon as I read it, that lightbulb went on. I have my dreams, yes--but they're not mine, they're the Lord's. He's the keeper of that garden of dreams. He sends the water (water again!) that nourishes them, he watches over the tender sprouts to make sure no one tramples them. I might fear the thorns and briers--but he doesn't. Why should he? Trouble is nothing to God.

I'm just praising the Lord today for his promises. For the way he always reminds me of them when I'm tempted to wallow in my forgetfulness. For always sending the water to nourish my soul.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Remember When . . . Tea Parties Were Supernatural?

Okay, gotta get away from Ancient Persia for a while before I go cuckoo-bananas. =) So today we're taking a brief trip back to the 1880s and into the world of spiritualism. Familiar with the movement? If so, you'll know how weird it is. If not--boy are you in for an eye-opener! ;-)

So, three years ago or so we were watching the history channel, and there was a special on about spiritualism--a movement whose goal was to reconcile the religion strictly taught in Victorian society with the scientific development suddenly running rampant. People thought it would be fun to try to use science to prove the spiritual world--an interesting concept, sure--and went about it in a way that soooooo had me shaking my head.

In England, where the movement really gained steam, spiritualism was a fashionable hobby for the new upper-middle class. People would get together for tea party seances and sit around munching their biscuits while they tried to call the dead into the midst. They would parade the children (the children!!!) out to serve as mediums. They would conduct different experiments involving moving furniture and knocking.

Now, when I saw this, my first thought was exactly what the critics of spiritualism in the day said: this is just silly nonsense.

Then it hit me--it wasn't just silly nonsense, it was downright dangerous. People who had no clue about the spiritual world were opening doors and inviting who-knew-what into their lives. And no one cautioned them that they were doing this, they either thought it fun or ridiculous.

A couple days after watching this, my dad gave a sermon on Daniel that made a story idea click in my little head. A Victorian-era Daniel story, where the character isn't facing the magicians of the Babylonian empire, but rather this new brand of magicians in the spiritualism movement. Someone who has actually seen the spiritual world and so knows its true colors--someone better at their games than they, yet who wants nothing to do with them . . .

I've got several intimidatingly large tomes on the subject waiting to be read, waiting for the perfect time for me to sit down and write Revealer of Secrets. Who knows--maybe it'll be soon. =)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Story Time . . . THE PERFECT BLEND by Trish Perry


Have I ever mentioned that I love Trish Perry? If not, it's an oversight I can't suffer any longer. I LOVE TRISH PERRY! Why, you ask? Well, I'll tell you.

1.) She has a fabulous sense of humor--I'm talking make-you-laugh-out-loud while reading one of her books--that usually finds its outlets through characters you just want to sit down and chat (and chuckle) with.

2.) Her stories always deliver sweet romance along with the funny moments. And . . .

3.) She manages both the hilarity and the romance along with a beautiful spiritual message.

When Trish's latest release, The Perfect Blend, arrived in the mail minutes before I left for vacation last week, you can bet I squeezed it into my briefcase (though there was really no room . . .) I didn't open it until this weekend, but still. My fingers were itching for it. Here's a bit about the story:

Steph Vandergrift is in desperate need of divine distraction. She's just arrived in Middleburg, Virginia, a picturesque little town that she's supposed to be making her own today after eloping with a local attorney. But when her fiance leaves her at the would-be alter, she's left to try not to fall to pieces on the very lovely sidewalk outside his office. Why, again, did she have to sever all ties with her life back in Baltimore?

A kind British tea-shop owner spots her and rushes to the rescue, ushering her into Millicent's Tea Shop and solving her problems with a fantabulous scone and a listening ear. Before she knows it, Steph has offered to fill in for Milly's absent waitress, and the resident Mr. Cutie Pants has already made an appearance, guaranteeing that Steph has made a fool of herself. Not that it matters--she's so not in the market for another man right now.

Yet . . . the more she gets to know Kendall (a.k.a Cutie Pants) and his amazing sense of humor, the more she wonders if maybe, when she is ready to date again . . . but then her ex-fiance shows back up and tries to win her back. How's a girl to know which version of spice will help her make the perfect blend for her life?

I confess--I'm not finished yet. And already I have laughed, snickered, chuckled, and grinned my way through this story. It's not that the story itself is hilarious--it's the characters. You know how you laugh at those clever, wonderful lines on a TV show? It's the same way in Trish's books. The characters themselves are funny. And endearing, and sigh-worthy, and oh-so-relatable.

The cast of secondary characters are a hoot too, from the ready-to-listen Milly to the can't-be-tamed sisters Liz and Christy.

In short, if you like adorable towns complete with tea shops and dreamy inn-owners, fun romance, faith, and good friends, then you don't want to miss The Perfect Blend. And if you don't want to miss The Perfect Blend, then you'd better come back on Friday, when I'm interviewing Trish and giving away a copy!

*This book was provided free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Martha Rogers' Finding Becky is . . .

Maureen! (alekee02@ . . .)

Congrats, Maureen! I just sent you an email.

Modern . . . Heroes

I confess it--I love a good hero. I like being in their heads for a while, I like seeing their thoughts. Generally speaking, I like their reactions. My hubby and I joke that my emotions are more like a man's than a woman's (and he frequently praises the Lord that I somehow escaped the moodswings that plague so many women), and more than once I've growled at a heroine for being so . . . so . . . blastedly girlish in her response to something, when I wanted her to suck it up and take it like a woman.

Maybe that's why I enjoy crafting my heroes, tucking little pieces of the men I know and love into their characters. Yes, my hubby sees a bit of himself in some of my awesome guys. My dad probably would too, if he read my unpublished manuscripts. Though of course, there are always some things uniquely their own.

I love creating heroes that earn sighs from my critique partners, and I know I've gotten it right if Carole emails something to the effect of, "If I weren't happily married to a real man, I'd be giving your heroine some competition for him." =)

One of my favorite heroes thus far is in my contemporary, Seized. He's got the alpha-thing going in that he's in peak physical position--kinda necessary, since he's a SEAL. But he's not the leader of his group--he's the tech guy. He's of especially strong spirit, his relationship with the Lord one I aspire to. He prays over everything, and has so well learned to listen to the Lord that his entire team has learned to trust whatever God tells him to do or not do. Of course, he's going to be a little challenged toward the end of the book when God's telling him to put the woman he loves in harm's way without any guarantees that she'll come back to him.

Which brings me to one of my favorite, but trickiest heroic attributes. See, Smith (my hero) hasn't been involved with a woman for the last eight years, ever since some torture-training drew him so close to the Lord. What will come out throughout the story is that God has actually put blinders on him so that the next woman he really notices is THE woman--and it isn't an at-first-sight thing with her, he doesn't get struck by it until she accepts Christ. Then bam! He falls hard.

Now, personally I think this is going to be a lot of fun. I do admit to some concern that Smith will be too perfect, or the blinded-to-all-others thing might not be realistic. (Hence the backstory concerning the woman he was a little too involved with in college and her determination to come back into his life now and dredge up the past.)

What are some of your favorite characteristics in a hero? Do you like the strong, silent types? The just-waiting-to-be-reformed bad boys? The geeky ones who come into their own over the course of the story? Do share!

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Friend Darlene - Interview & Giveaway


Today we're welcoming prolific writer Darlene Franklin to the blog to talk about her newly-released anthology from Barbour, A Woodland Christmas. Hard as it is to believe 'tis the season again, it's definitely time to start hunting down what books you'll want to get yourself in the holiday spirit this year!

Darlene has graciously offered a copy of A Woodland Christmas to one lucky readers, so as usual, leave your comments below. And please make sure you're a follower!

~*~

About Darlene

Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin recently returned to cowboy country—Oklahoma—to be near family. She recently signed the contract for her twelfth book. This fall she is celebrating the repacking of her Rhode Island romance in Seaside Romance and her third novella anthology, Face of Mary in A Woodland Christmas. Visit Darlene’s blogs at www.darlenefranklinwrites.blogspot.com and http://thebookdoctorbd.blogspot.com.

~*~

About A Woodland Christmas

Four couples carve a niche for love in the Piney Woods of East Texas. itinerant woodcarver moves from town to town in the woodlands, delivering “sawdust sermons” that hold even more value than the furniture he crafts. Will the advice he dispenses help four couples find their way to the miracle of love at Christmas? In my novella, The Face of Mary, Mary “Polly” Jessup holds onto a promise of marriage made five years ago, but when Joseph “Joey” Carpenter returns from law school with a new outlook and new girlfriend, her future hopes are dashed.

~*~

What's your latest book?

Barbour Publishing released Seaside Romance in August and A Woodland Christmas on September 1st. Both books are anthologies, and I am one of the authors.

I'm already intrigued by the mere mention of "seaside" . . . but I'll be good and focus on the Christmas one. ;-) I do love Christmas too, after all. What's your favorite part of the story?

Gabe Noell, an itinerant woodcarver, appears in all four stories in A Woodland Christmas. He’s quite a character, and I had fun with him. In my story, The Face of Mary, Gabe is carving life-size nativity figures. My hero is painting them, and he is searching for the woman who resembles Mary in character to be his model. Little does he realize she’s right under his nose.

Sounds fun! What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I would say that romance picked me. As a single woman, I give all the credit to God for allowing me to write romance. He is the author of all true love and His love is the rock solid foundation of my life. Lately I’ve been writing mostly historical romance, which has become a very rewarding experience. At the same time it’s scary. There is so much I don’t know!

I read a lot of romance (mostly historical), but my default genre for mental relaxation is mystery/suspense. The busier I get, the more I drop everything else and stick to mysteries.

I know exactly what you mean about the scariness of historicals! Gotta love 'em though. What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

I’m in the middle of a “push” writing project, so I am doing what I usually do when under pressure: relaxing with a good mystery or suspense book. Currently I’m reading Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark. She’s one of the few romantic suspense authors I read regularly, and she always impresses me by the way she integrates her faith into her books in a very gentle way.

And of course I always have more than one book going at a time! During my quiet time, I’m reading Breathing Grace by Dr. Henry Straus. I’m also reading Rocky Mountain Match by Pamela Nissen. I am also reading a book about a range war in Texas for my next WIP.

Next, I want to finish Vigilante’s Bride by Yvonne Harris and the next mystery on my list is The Paris Vendetta by Steve Berry.

Wow, that's one rich reading life! I'm impressed. =) Now, here's a fun one: what's one of the oddest or most interesting things someone has ever said about you?

My entire family was humor-challenged; practical jokes used to leave me scratching my head. So when laughter comes easily now, I thank God. Imagine my shock—and delight—when someone said “You smile all the time!” Give all the credit for that to God.

LOL. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

I recently purchased a home and have the luxury of an entire room for my office! And every spare inch is crammed: desk, 3 book cases, 2 filing cabinets, printer desk, and a rolling cart where I keep office supplies. I hope to finish off the room with a poster-sized print of one of my photos of my beloved Rockies, so I can escape to Colorado in my mind while writing. (While living through Oklahoma’s hot summers).

I’ve come a long way since I wrote my first novel while riding on the bus! Praise the Lord.

Oh, I envy you that room to yourself! Though not the writing on the bus . . . ;-) What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

I’m not sure at which point I learned this lesson, but I hear it a lot from pre-published writers: the attitude of “if only.” If only I could win the Genesis contest. If only I could get a book published.

The “if onlys” don’t stop there, however. Then it becomes “if only I get a second book published.” If only enough people buy my book. If only I could get a bigger contract.

Whether pre-published or multi-published, we still struggle with self-doubt and want more and have to turn it over to God.

Too true. Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

I have sold sixteen books; and I haven’t had a phone call yet. I do remember that I received the news about my first book the night before Thanksgiving. Great rejoicing!

I bet! Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

This has been an amazing year! In addition to the two books mentioned before, I have three books coming out about historical Vermont (and eventually, a repack like Seaside Romance). Each story is based on a historical event in Vermont’s history. In Prodigal Patriot, Reid hides out in a cave with her family and continues to farm her land in spite of Tory opposition—including the father of the man who loves her. In Bridge to Love, Tuttle has to make crops grow in the year when every crop failed (The Year of No Summer) to pay off his debt to the banker—and win the heart of the banker’s daughter. Love’s Raid is a Civil War story; when the bank is robbed, Daniel Tuttle has to determine if it’s a copycat robbery (the St. Albans Raid)—or something closer to home.

Those all sound awesome!

~*~

Thanks for visiting, Darlene! Don't forget to check out her sites (above), everyone. And you can order her A Woodland Christmas from Amazon.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 9/23/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . A Cool New Site

So, there's an awesome new site debuting in October, and as an official sponsor (well, the Christian Review of Books is), I feel the need to let y'all know about it. Cuz it is cool.

Clash of the Titles (www.ClashoftheTitles.com) is a place "Where authors battle and readers judge." Here's the setup. Two published authors submit excerpts from their books in a certain theme (best kiss, smoothest conversion scene, best nature description, etc.). The two selections are published--but the readers don't know who the authors are. Readers vote based solely on which snippet they think best captures the theme.

Mid-week, the results are tallied and the winners are announced, along with the knowledge of who wrote what. The authors and their books are promoted, and readers get a chance to win a signed book--and meet some new authors they now know they'll love!

I adore this idea and have already submitted something--though mum's the word on what or when. ;-)

Readers, writers--you have GOT to check this site out! It's going to be a ton of fun. How often do you get to do a blind taste-test when it comes to books??

Hop on over to get a feel for things, and when it goes live in a month, visit weekly to vote for The Worthiest!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Remember When . . . We Surrendered the Wind?

Okay, so since I'm on vacation right now (mwa ha ha ha!) I'm cheating and cross-posting something for a friend. And since she writes historical fiction and this is my historical day . . . works pretty well. =)

So, dig in and learn a little about Rita Gerlach's wonderful Revolution-era romance, Surrender the Wind. Enjoy!

~*~


~ When an American patriot of the Revolution inherits his grandfather’s estate in faraway England, he inherits more than an isolated manor house. He discovers Juleah’s love and a plot that leads to kidnapping, murder, and betrayal, in this stirring tale of fidelity and forgiveness. ~

Instead of answering interview questions, I’m commenting on some quotes from reviewers to give my readers a deeper glimpse into the storyline in Surrender the Wind.

* * *

From author Marylu Tyndall ~ Ms. Gerlach's historic research is evident throughout the story, and her attention to detail and literary descriptions of scenes placed me right in the middle of the action.

If a writer wishes to write a historical novel, research is a vital, essential part of developing a great story. When I began Surrender the Wind, I read numerous accountants of the Battle of Yorktown where the book opens in the prologue. I researched uniforms, dress, weaponry, food, and culture.

As the book moves forward into Chapter 1, the reader is taken to England, to a crumbling manor house in Devonshire. The historical research from this point on had to be in the details. I wanted my reader to see in their mind the scene, outdoors and indoors. Everything from a tallow candle in the socket of a brass candlestick, to the blue and white pitcher and bowl on the heroine’s washing table, adds strong visual imagery. My editor told me once that a place can become a character in a book. I feel that is true for Ten Width Manor. It's walls hold secrets of lives past and present in the story. Because it is the ancestral home of the Braxtons, Ten Width has a stronghold on those living in it.

Then there are the historical cultural markings in a book that make up the characters. Dress. Etiquette. Traditional family life. I studied 18th century wills and marriage customs, the fashions of the period, and how the classes interacted with each other.

* * *

From author Linda Clare ~ The American Revolutionary period comes to life as Gerlach explores themes of patriotism with a faith element.

In America today there is a resurgence of patriotism. We are returning to our roots, our Constitution, and faith. In the 18th century faith played a major role in the lives of people in both the Colonies and United Kingdom. In Surrender the Wind, I bring faith into the story as a lifestyle. It is delicately woven into the characters' personalities. One thing I did not want to do is write a ‘religious novel’. My goal was to write a novel where readers would become immersed into the characters by relating to the struggles they faced which bring about spiritual breakthroughs.

* * *

From Annette Temple ~ A Well-Watered Garden Blog' This book is one of the most romantic books I've ever read. The passion and love that is poetically described between Seth and Juleah was rousing.

I am so grateful to Annette for this comment. She helped me realize that I achieved my goal. Most of us ladies want a bit of romance in our stories, don’t we? We want a hero that is tough with the world, but tender with his lady. And a heroine that is strong in the face of tribulation, but swept away by the love of a man. Romance in a novel, in my opinion, is the most intriguing when what is written is just enough to leave the rest up to the reader’s imagination. In Christian fiction a writer brings out romance deftly, love that goes beyond the material, but deeper into the heart and spirit of the characters.

I’ll close here with a romantic excerpt from Surrender the Wind . It is Seth and Juleah’s wedding night. I hope you will consider reading my novel, and keep an eye out for the release of book 1 in a new series, Daughters of the Potomac, coming out in May, 2012, entitled ‘Before the Scarlet Dawn’.

* * * * * *


In his bedchamber, which they now shared, Juleah slipped on her silk nightdress. Thin white ribbons laced the front. She sat at the dressing table brushing her hair. Tinted with the golden splendor of the candles, she smoothed it over her shoulder and ran her fingers down its length. Excitement filled her, tripped over her skin along with desire. She glanced around the room. How masculine it appeared. A fresh coat of paint would improve its appearance, and white curtains over the windows would bring it warmth and light.

She set the candlestick on the table next to their bed. The brass clock on the mantelpiece chimed out the hour. She paused to listen to the musical sound it made, while she pulled down the coverlet. The door drifted open. Seth came inside, shut it, and proceeded to pull off his waistcoat.

“Ah, have you seen the moon?” She opened the drapes wide to let the moonlight pour in. It bathed the room soft blue. “Is it not lovely, Seth?”

He joined her at the window. Wrapping his arms around his wife’s waist, he stood close behind her. His breath brushed against her neck and she sighed.

He whispered in her ear. “Doubt thou the stars are fire. Doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar. But never doubt I love.”

It pleased her that he, a Virginian rebel, had memorized the beauty of Shakespeare’s verses. Melting with longing, she turned to him. He took her into his arms. She reached up and pushed back a lock of hair that fell over his brow. “I will never doubt your love, not for anything in the world.”

He brought his lips to hers and she strained against him. Love rose within each heart. He lifted her, and her feet dangled above the floor. Holding her, he kissed her, turned with Juleah toward their bed, and took his bride away from the window.


* * * * * *


Read Chapter One: http://www.abingdonpress.com/forms/displayImage.aspx?pcid=1173111

Rita’s Website: http://www.ritagerlach.com/index.html

Surrender the Wind is available wherever books are sold. Kindle additions available from Amazon.com

Cokesbury Bookstore is having an amazing sale. http://www.cokesbury.com/forms/ProductDetail.aspx?pid=783958

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Story Time . . . Let Them Eat Cake by Sandra Byrd


Can I just say that I miss chick lit? I'm not sure why it went out of style, but there's something about those insecure young heroines with a quirky outlook that inevitably sucks me in. And you know, I occasionally need a break from heavy, serious works--when that happens, this genre is just perfect. They still deal with the real issues, but they do it in a light voice.

Last month I e-met (how's that for coining a phrase? LOL) Sandra Byrd, who was interested in joining one of the historical groups I belong to. She has a Tudor-era novel coming out from Howard next year and loves this new direction of her career. Now, though, she has some YA books out, and a chick lit series. We did a book swap--I sent her Stray Drop, and she sent me these contemporaries. =)

I just finished reading the first one, and I gotta say, I love it. The heroine, Lexi, is a fairly recent college grad who majored in French studies . . . and now can't find a job. Certainly not in her area of interest. As a result, she's living at home again--and can't find a guy. But with her parents selling their house and moving to a retirement community in six months, Lexi's on the clock. It's time to get her life together--fast. Can the fabulous French bakery--and the fabulous French baker--be the answer to her stilted prayers?

But nothing's easy, not even something she loves as much as working at L'Esperance. She somehow manages to flub a huge order for a cute professional, and when he asks her what he's supposed to do, she snaps, "Let them eat cake!" Something snaps inside her too--it's high time she stop trying to please everyone else in her life and work on pleasing God. Chasing her own dreams, no one else's. Viva la revolution!

Personally, I was hooked from the first page. Each chapter starts with a French quote translated into English, and what woman wouldn't love this one? :

Chaque personne sait où sa chaussure pince.
Each woman knows where her shoe pinches.

And that is the summation of life through the eyes of Lexi Stuart. She knows where her problems are--but just like those fave shoes that rub, but which you just can't get rid of, it isn't a matter of obliterating your problems. It's a matter of working with them.

As I was reading, I couldn't wait to see what Lexi would get into next! Where her rêves, her dreams, would take her. And how many blisters her over-priced shoes rubbed along the way. ;-)

(Adorable note--my kids sat there yesterday trying to decide which of the petit fours on the cover would be tastiest and them pretended to munch them. =) Xoe, of course, favored the pink heart-shaped one in the middle. Rowyn wanted the German chocolate one on the back. )

Monday, September 13, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Jody Hedlund's The Preacher's Bride is . . .
Bluerose! (blueroseheart@ . . .)
Congrats! I just sent you an email!

Modern . . . Beaches


Given that I'm yet again staring out at the Atlantic (ah, bliss!), this seems like a perfect topic for today--especially because coming down to the Outer Banks inevitably reminds me of the contemporary novels I set here.

I know I've talked a bit about Yesterday's Tides before, but I can never think of it enough. =) This is one of those stories that totally obsesses me every time I work on it. There's something about the life of Louisa, my single mom to twins, that inspires me and consumes me. It's not just that she's brilliant, that she's so very dedicated to her family. It is, in part, this place. And the fact that she's so tied to it.

This is one of those stories that couldn't have been set anywhere else. Louisa belongs to the Outer Banks. In a lot of ways, she is the ocean. Steady, but not always predictable. Deep, and not always safe. Yet also nurturing and welcoming. A life source.

I always expect to see Louisa sauntering up the beach when I'm here. Who knows. Maybe someday I will. =)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11

My hubby and I were Sophomores at St. John's College on 9/11/01. We were in class when the planes struck the World Trade Center and had no clue what was going on. As we drove home for lunch, we saw a very strange sight for Annapolis though--two white hazmat vans (strange looking things) rushing onto Rt 50 right in front of us. A curiosity that we ignored until we got home and my MIL called us to tell us to turn on the news.

As we drove back for afternoon classes an hour later, it seemed like a different world. Annapolis was deserted, all the government offices vacated and the Naval Academy on lockdown. Because my college is sandwiched between those two things, police stood at the corners of the college, checking IDs before allowing us to enter. It was a terrifying time. It rewrote reality.

I remember having the thought, "What is relevant now? What matters? These stories I'm working on seem so trivial, but what stories wouldn't?"

We drove home that weekend, and across every bridge homemade banners stretched declaring "God Bless America." People had stuck Styrofoam cups into chain link fences to scroll out messages of their patriotism. American flags had sold out.

And now, nine years later, I think most of us have forgotten that again, or have at least shoved it to a convenient place in our minds, one that we don't have to look at but when we realize the anniversary is upon us.

So every year, I make it a point to pull out the essay I wrote on 9/11, which was published in my hometown paper a week later. It helps me remember--perhaps it will help you, too.

To My Brother, the Stranger

I did not know you. I never met you. If I had seen you, you would have been simply a face in the crowd. My thoughts never touched upon the possibility of your existence.

And yet. . .

And yet when I heard of the tragedy of losing you, you were suddenly my brother, my sister, my best friend. You were the comrade I never had the opportunity to meet, the face I could sketch simply because of how many faces you are. And every time I open my mind, it is to realize anew that you were a person, you were loved, and now you’re gone.

It’s a shock I never expected to feel , a pain no man, woman, or child should ever have to endure. And I did not know you. How much worse must it be for the widows, the orphans, the childless parents, the brotherless sisters that were made on that day? How much worse again for those who yet know nothing about the fate of those dearest to them?

It is a pain no one should have to gaze on, much less be consumed by. It is a piercing that should quickly tear down all barriers until there is nothing left but a shaken humanity, a resolved people, a united nation. It should induce the best in man when he looks at evil, when he sees the dancing in his enemy’s camps. It should make him realize that the sickness he feels, the death he sees is a presence to be ignored no longer.

I pray that somehow this change in our lives will be used in a way to make us better. I pray that as I walk down the streets of my untouched city I never forget that it could be gone in a moment. I pray that as I pass a stranger I remember to remember that he is not a stranger to someone. I pray that soon all our fears are exhausted and we are left instead with hope. And I pray that we never take for granted the greatness of our nation, lest through our disregard it lose that thing that sets us apart.

I can never say the right words to those who are grieving, because there are no words to be said. I did not know you. I never met you. All I can offer you is the love of a face you have never seen and the prayers of a heart that is reaching across the miles to the strangers it now calls brothers.

May God enfold us in His arms until the terror goes away. May He settle his peace over us until the rivers of tears run dry. May He comfort us until we become victorious. And may we never forget that it is He who will lift us from the mire. Today America has united in common anguish. Tomorrow we will rejoice in justice. And all the world will know that this is a nation that God has blessed and will never forsake. Let us be the first to proclaim that.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Friend Martha - Interview & Giveaway



Today I'm pleased to welcome Martha Rogers to my blog to chat about her latest novel, Finding Becky.

As usual, leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of this book. Be sure to leave an email address and make sure you're a follower!





~*~

About Martha

Although Martha’s primary writing experience is in non-fiction, she has been writing fiction for a number of years. The first two books, Becoming Lucy and Morning for Dove in her Winds Across the Prairie released in January and May of 2010. Books three and four will be available in September 2010 and January 2011. She is a retired teacher who enjoys spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren. Martha is a member of ACFW and writes a weekly devotional for the group. She serves as treasurer of both the Woodlands chapter of ACFW and the Houston chapter of Inspirational Writers Alive.

Other book credits include the novella, Sugar and Grits, a Christmas novella, River Walk Christmas, seven Bible studies, contributions to compilations by Wayne Holmes, Karen O’Conner, and Debbie White Smith. Martha has contributed devotionals to several anthologies including recently released Blissfully Blended, a devotional book for Step-moms from Barbour.

~*~

About Finding Becky

Rebecca Haynes arrives home from college with new ideas and attitudes about women and her faith that bring dismay to Rob Frankston who has loved her since her days as the young girl Becky. Geoff Kensington arrives in town at the same time with an interest in Rebecca. When problems and strange accidents befall the citizens of Barton Creek, Becky seeks Rob’s help. He hopes he will find the Becky he’s always loved as they uncover the truth.

~*~

What's your latest book?

Finding Becky from Realms to be released on September 21, 2010

Oo, we're getting a sneak peek! Love that. =) What's your favorite part of the story?

I have several, but I suppose my most favorite is when Rebecca realizes how much her family and her faith mean to her and that she doesn’t have to sacrifice her independence for either one, and that being the Becky from her childhood is actually a good thing.

What was the hardest part to write?

None of it was really difficult. This was the easiest of the four to write.

Gotta love those. What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

How much God loves His children and whenever we stray, He is there waiting for us to return to Him.

A beautiful reminder! Is there a theme to this book?

All my books have the theme of reunion and reconciliation. Sometimes that within the family and sometimes it’s a reconciliation with our Heavenly Father.

One of my favorite themes. =) What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I love writing historical romances, but I love to ready mystery and suspense

What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

Just finished Kim Sawyer’s latest book, In Every Heartbeat and am almost through Allison Pittman’s novel For Time and Eternity.

Those both sound so good! What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

I’m working on my dream office. Right now my space is so cluttered that no else can find anything.

LOL--I know that feeling. My whole house feels that way! Are there any people (family, writing group, editors) who you rely on when writing?

The 19th Century Writers Loop provides me with lots of info if I can’t find it on internet. If I’m in a pinch, I know I can rely on my friends Janice Thompson, Rhonda Gibson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo to help out.

Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

Church and family take up my time as I am a group leader for a weekly Bible study, sing in the choir, and lead a First Place 4 Health group once a week. Two sons and their families live here and we spend a lot of time with them, especially during football season with one grandson in the band and one playing football in high school.

I was a marching band girl. =) If someone were to give you $5,000 to spend on anything you wanted, what would you buy? (No saving or gifts to charities allowed!)

I’d put it toward renovating my kitchen with new cabinets, countertops and appliances.

Wanna renovate mine too?? ;-) What writing goal have you set for yourself that would be the hardest (or unlikeliest) but most rewarding to achieve?

To write well enough to win nominations for an award. Don’t have to win it, I would just like to be nominated.

Here's hoping that's a dream that comes true soon! Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

On my birthday, I received a call about an offer letter from Realms and then a contract. We were on a family trip to Kerrville when Tamela, my agent called and said the final contract was approved and a copy of it would be waiting when I got home.

That's so awesome! Best birthday present ever! What are you writing right now?

I’m working on Book 1 of the next series, Seasons of the Heart.

Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

Riverwalk Christmas, an anthology of Christmas stories has just been released. Find Becky is to be released September 21.

Is there another author who has greatly influenced your writing?

My three original Seared Hearts critique partners have been the greatest influence as they critiqued my writing and helped me to become the writer I am. They are DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo.

~*~

Thanks so much for visiting, Martha! Everyone check out Martha's site at www.MarthaWRogers.com.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 9/16/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Spider Drama

I can think of nothing else to talk about yet, so y'all are going to get the story of my last evening.

Okay, so let's set the stage. Xoe (she's 4, almost 5 for those of you who don't know), fell asleep on the couch yesterday afternoon. This inevitably means she has trouble falling asleep at bedtime, but I was hopeful--she kept saying she was tired all evening.

But as expected, she was up at 8:30 or so asking to go to the bathroom (ah, stall tactics). In the bathroom, she spotted a teensy tiny little spider. The kind so small it barely even freaked her out, and she's the master of over-reacting to any bug. (I say that with all love, LOL.) Then I tucked her back in, thankful Rowyn (who's 2 1/2) didn't wake up.

Half an hour later, shrieking. "Spider! Mommy, there's a spider on my pilloooooooooooowwwwwwww!"

Riiiiiiiight. I'm thinking, "Okay, so she fell asleep, dreamed about the spider, woke up freaked out." Something I would have done. So I calm her down, hold her for a few in the living room, make a show of checking her pillow and bed, and then tuck her in--for half a second before pulling her out of bed, barely containing a shriek of my own as a HUGE, thick spider (as opposed to our usual granddaddy-long-leg) scurries over the toy box right beside her pillow. (Rather than sleeping on her top bunk bed, she's been on a mattress on the floor since July. Which I will not go into right now.)

So I hustle Xoe back to the living room, grab a flashlight (Rowyn's still sleeping in the bedroom, so no overhead lights) and a shoe, and go spider hunting. But the thing must have gone into the toy box. (Can you see me shudder?) I can't find it and squish it, which means no body to show Xoe.

We move her little bed to the other side of the bedroom, but of course that doesn't work. A few minutes and she's freaking out again, insisting she saw one on Rowyn's dresser now (at her head), and trying to convince me that she'll be fine if I just let her stay up until I go to bed. Which, at this point, is only a few minutes away anyway. So I let her help me make my coffee and watch me wash my face, then go back in with the flashlight. We check everything, and I leave the light with her so she can shine it if she thinks she sees something.

A little bit later, I go to bed. Three minutes after settling in . . . wanna take a guess? That's right, Xoe's flying up the stairs. Obviously she's not going to be able to sleep on the floor in there. So first we try the top bunk. No go--she hasn't mastered the ladder yet, so . . . Our other option is what we try next--pulling her little mattress on the floor into the schoolroom.

Thankfully, that worked. She settled down and went to sleep. At 11:00. Three hours after bedtime. Argh!

After that the night was peaceful (though I was dreaming of bugs--go figure). Unfortunately, when I snuck down at 6 in search of some quiet time before the kids woke up, the kids woke up. So Mommy's a little grumpy, and while Rowyn (who got a solid 10 hours, miraculously) is his usual chipper self, Xoe's also grumpy--not surprising. Seven hours of sleep is not enough for a 4-year-old. And grumpy me is thinking, "She's going to fall asleep again this afternoon and then repeat the whole can't-sleep-at-night-thing . . ."

Here's hoping for a smoothing evening tonight though, eh? Sigh.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Remember When . . . Dreams Came True?

I've always been intrigued by the stories of dreams--you know the kind. The ones that get recorded, that come true, that sometimes need interpretations. Some are prophetic, some get the title "true," some rewrite the course of history.

The Greco-Persian War was launched because of a series of dreams. Xerxes had announced he was going to war, but then rethought it that night and decided his cautious uncle may be right. He decided to change his mind. That night he had a dream of a handsome, fierce man who taunted him for turning away from the greatness he was called to. He dismissed the dream, announced the change of plans--and the following night dreamed of the man again, whose taunting was seriously disturbing this time. Terrified, he made his uncle come sleep in his bed, wearing his robes, hoping he would be given the same dream. The uncle was (much to his surprise)--and the man was so enraged with him for talking the king out of the war that he came at his eyes with red-hot pokers.

And so, they went to war.

This dream isn't actually in Jewel of Persia, though Xerxes tells Mordecai all about it, and it's a well known fact within the palace. But in editing, I just got to another dream. This one is a woman saying, "I dreamed last night that I will deliver a little girl when we get back to Susa."

Now, it took some courage for me to put this in. Why? Well, for the very reason her husband uses in reply. "I have never heard of a mother dreaming of a girl-child, either in the stories of your people or mine."

The mother replies with my reasoning for including it. "Why would you? History only records such things if the child goes on to greatness, and women matter little . . . you read the history of men. Women tell different tales."

Ever talked to pregnant women about whether they're having a girl or a boy before they get that 20-week sonogram? Sometimes they're clueless. And sometimes they know. How? A feeling, sometimes. But many I've talked to have said, "Every time I dream about the baby--which I started doing before I even knew I was pregnant--it's a girl." (Or boy, depending.)

Me being me, these stories had me so excited that when I was pregnant with my first, I second-guessed myself constantly IN my dreams! Totally useless gauge--I would actually hold the baby in my dreams and wonder, "Boy or girl?" Sometimes the gender would change mid-dream. Kinda frustrating. ;-) But with Rowyn, my dreams did indeed always feature a little boy, though I was afraid to admit as much, given my dreaming-indecision with Xoe.

But as I was writing this part in Jewel of Persia, it really hit me--women didn't just start dreaming about their kids in the last few years. If we do it now, we did it then. But why record it? What does it matter?

Historically, it doesn't. The men who wrote the histories would wave it away. But we . . . we tell the tales of women. And we care.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Story Time . . . A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman


Some of you undoubtedly remember when a few months ago I mentioned how I read Julie Lessman's latest but had been asked not to post the review until the book had released. Well folks, the time has come!! A Hope Undaunted just released September 1st, and now I'm gonna drive you all nuts by posting my review, which will necessitate you buy it because, well, it's awesome. =)

~*~

Katie O'Connor's got her life planned out, everything in place for perfection. In the fall, she'll be attending Portia Law School. She's got Jack, the rich, influential beau who dotes on her and will help her use that law degree to the greatest affect. Her goal—crusade for women's rights, so that other women won't have to live under the thumb of a man like she has all her life. She loves her father, sure, but times have changed. It's 1929—when will he realize she should be given some independence? Instead, he sentences her to a summer of hard labor, working for her worst nightmare.

Cluny McGee has finally grown up . . . at least until he butts heads again with little Katie Rose O'Connor. She always did bring out the worst in him. Of course, she also always made his heart pound a little too fast. Her attitude certainly hasn't changed over their decade apart, but he has. He's a Christian now, and he's determined to live up to it. Quite a task, when forced to work closely with Katie at the Boston Children's Aid Society. Temper and passion get all mixed up, and the sparks that fly do little to illuminate the right path. But one thing he knows without doubt—Katie will either make all his dreams come true or rip him to pieces.

A Hope Undaunted delivers exactly what one expects from Julie Lessman. Passion, temper, faith, love, and family tying it all together. I loved the exchanges between stubborn, proud Cluny and fiesty, headstrong Katie. We all sigh over a strong hero, which Cluny certainly is. In this book we also have the pleasure of getting to know the sassy heroine who has to learn where wisdom and spirit meet.

I have to admit that I really wondered through the first half of the book how the author was going to rein Katie in and help her to see that willfulness is only an asset when our will aligns with the Lord's. I knew Julie Lessman could pull it off—and boy, did she!

This is the first book in the Wings of Change trilogy, which continues the saga of the O'Connors that we met in the Daughters of Boston series. Readers of the first series will definitely not want to miss this one, as we get continued peeks into the lives of Katie's family, whom we all adore. New readers will thoroughly enjoy the dynamics and sparks between Katie and Cluny, though the subplots might not resonate as much with them if they don't already know the characters.

As with Lessman's other books, A Hope Undaunted has quite a few passionate moments that some readers of Christian fiction might not like—but also as with her other books, each of those is underscored with and answers to God's expectations. That's what I love most about books by Julie Lessman. I know the characters are going to experience in equal measures passionate love for one another and for the Lord.

Another winner from Julie Lessman!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Winner!

And the winner of Sarah Sundin's A Memory Between Us is . . .

Katers!

Katers, you didn't leave an email address, so if you could please email me at roseanna (at) whitefireprinting (dot) com with your snail mail addy, I'll get it to Sarah.


And since it's a holiday and all, I'm going to otherwise be lazy and not post a blog. ;-) Hope everyone has a great Labor Day!

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Friend Jody - Interview & Giveaway


Today I'm chatting with a new friend from my historical writing group, HisWriters. Jody Hedlund's debut novel, The Preacher's Bride, is set to release in a month, and it sounds so awesome that you should SO pre-order a copy if you don't win.

Which of course brings us to entering-to-win. Usual drill. Leave a comment with an email address--but that's not all! Jody has a special request too, at the end of the interview. You'll just have to read it to see what question she'd like you to answer. And so, without further ado . . .

~*~

About The Preacher's Bride

In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher—whether her assistance is wanted or not. Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth ignores John’s protests of her aid. She’s even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family.

Yet Elizabeth’s new role as nanny takes a dangerous turn when John’s boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher’s enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she’s more determined than ever to save the child—and man—she’s come to love.

~*~

About Jody

Jody Hedlund is a debut historical romance novelist who was a double finalist in the 2009 ACFW Genesis Contest. She received a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in central Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.

~*~

What's your latest book?

The Preacher’s Bride releases from Bethany House Publishers in October 2010.

Oo, we get a sneak peak! Fun. =) And it sounds awesome--can't wait to get my hands on a copy! Is there a theme?

Sometimes God will lead us down a difficult path or ask us to do hard things and he doesn’t want us to avoid them for the easy way. Ultimately he uses those difficulties to shape our character and deepen our love for Him.

The messages of this story are the lessons that God has been teaching me over the past years. Through my own personal struggles, God has emphasized that he’s more concerned about my holiness than my happiness, and that I need to continue to live a life of obedience to him and walk the difficult path.

That's sometimes a tough lesson to learn--but I fully believe the difficult path leads you to the most amazing discoveries. But back to books. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I admit! I’m a historical romance junkie! I rarely read anything but historical romance and I adore historical romance movies (my latest favorite Young Queen Victoria—it was divine!). I’m also a bit of a history geek—I love reading biographies and finding interesting but little-known facts and people from history. All of that naturally leads to my passion for writing historical romances and I honestly can’t see myself writing anything but that.

Huzzah! Three cheers for historical romance! (FYI, we met through a historical writing group, LOL.) So what would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

What I wouldn’t give for a private, quiet, spot. Nothing fancy or special. Just a quiet place where I could go without any interruptions! But at this point in my life I’m a busy mama-writer. I have 5 beautiful children ranging in ages from 5 to 13, and so the word “quiet” doesn’t exist in my house. My REAL office is smack-dab in the middle of my home at the kitchen table. There I can still see everything and everyone (because we all know moms have invisible eyes in the backs of their heads!). Amidst the chaos, I somehow manage to eke out my daily word count.

FIVE kids? You have my awe and total respect. I can barely keep up with my two. And I totally hear you--any quiet spot would do! LOL. Are there any people who you rely on when writing?

This past year, I was able to come up with a system that helped me minimize distractions (by minimize I mean take it down from 100 interruptions an hour to 50). =) I hired my older children to babysit my little ones. Every afternoon during my writing time, one of my big kids would occupy and play with the youngest of my bunch, which freed me up to concentrate a little more.

My husband is also incredibly supportive. This past year we worked out a plan where I was able to get away to the library on Saturdays for more extended writing time. He took charge of all the kid’s activities and even cooked dinner (most times successfully!) and had it on the table when I arrived home.

That is awesome. And obviously necessary. Five! Sheesh. ;-) Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

I’m a full time teacher to my children, so the large majority of my day is spent grading math papers, giving spelling tests, overseeing crazy science experiments, and re-learning everything I never learned during my childhood education (five times over!). Occasionally I try to squeeze in load of laundry—but only when the kids complain that they’re out of underwear. =)

LOL--I just started homeschooling, but my oldest isn't quite five. We're not to the grading papers stage, but it did take me three days to fold one load of laundry this week. Who needs clean clothes, anyway? ;-) What are you writing right now?

At the beginning of the summer I finished writing my next book which is scheduled to release in 2011. And now I’m in the process of researching and plotting a new story.

Can't wait to hear about it! It was great chatting with you, Jody!

Thanks for having me today, Roseanna! I would love to hear from all your readers! Please stop by my Facebook Page or Twitter and say hi.

For a chance to win a copy of The Preacher’s Bride, leave your email and then also tell me your favorite romance movie! (And if you don’t have a favorite romance, then shame on you! =) Tell us your favorite movie instead.)

~*~

Be sure to check out Jody's website and blog! You can find The Preacher's Bride at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.com.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 9/9/10. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Limits

Last weekend, we had dinner down at my grandparents' farm. It's nestled in a bend of the Potomac River, a little outcropping of West Virginia completely surrounded by Maryland. Mountains rise up all around their couple-hundred-acres of relative flatland, creating a vista I enjoyed for most of life from the nearby hill, where my parents lived.

On another relative-flat section on top of the hill, there's a little regional airport. Right across the river there's Cumberland's train yard--and a four-land highway. So on this pretty little farm that you might think is isolated, you can hear and see all the signs of civilization. One of my friends once commented, "You can't walk anywhere but to the nearest tree out here, yet I'm afraid an airplane's going to hit me in the head." =)

The kids were all outside playing after dinner--but it was hot, and that didn't last long. Not for most of them. Rowyn, however, refused to come inside when the girls called it quits. Though a safe area, I didn't want to leave him out there alone simply because the boy has no fear--who knows what he would chase to who-knows-where. So Mommy sucked up her distaste for extreme heat and went outside.

Rowyn was standing with head craned back. After greeting me, he pointed to the sky. "Airplanes up there," he informed me.

I grinned. "Yep, there are airplanes up there."

He kept on looking. "Rowyn go up there too."

I chuckled. "Oh yeah?"

He nodded and turned his attention to . . . the top of the house? "Rowyn go on roof to see airplanes."

Visions of two-year-olds scaling the siding in my head, I shook my head. "How are you going to get on the roof, Rowyn?"

Picture an exaggerated toddler shrug. "Don't know either," he said. ("Either" is a new word for him, and he uses it lavishly.) "Climb ladder. Where's ladder, Mommy?"

Mommy, praising her grandparents for hiding all large tools and equipment away in the garages and sheds and barns, looked around and was happy to pronounce, "I don't see a ladder."

Rowyn sighed and stomped over to the side of the house. After studying it for a minute--the little wrought-iron bench, the chimney, the plants--he pointed to a high-reaching flowering bush. "Rowyn climb flowers up there."

I laughed--I couldn't help it. And I delighted in the imagination, the determination of a toddler. But more, it brought me back to that feeling of no limits. That feeling that the world is yours for the taking, if only you find that magic beanstalk leading you up to the clouds.

Yes, we have limits. We learn, we experience, and we realize that some things are impossible. We just can't climb a flimsy flower up to the roof--and if we got up there, we still wouldn't be close to the airplanes. But how often do we use that experience and idea of limits to not even try to reach our dreams? How often do we leave it at "Nope, can't get up there this way" and not consider that we could take this other path, and arrive at the airport? That we could dig a ladder out, if the roof was our goal?

I think when the Lord called us to have childlike faith, this is what he was talking about. How like my little boy do we look to God? Trying to use our reason, our logic, to get to a goal, when reason and logic won't get us anywhere close? How often does He shake his head and smile at us, knowing that even if He gave us the ladder we asked for, it wouldn't get us where we want to go? But if we trust in Him--if we hold fast to the dreams He's given us--maybe He'll send a car to take us to the airport we didn't know was there. Or show us, if we make it to the roof, that that was where we needed to get to all along.

The world has limits . . . and it has history that shows us they can be broken and overcome.

My prayer today is that we all recapture a bit of that two-year-old wonder and find a flower to climb up to our dreams.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Remember When . . . Secrets Were Cool?

Book VII of Herodotus's Histories ends with a story included solely for its coolness-factor. (Unlike modern historians, Herodotus was all about telling us things solely for coolness--he obviously wasn't concerned about word count.)

See, we hear a little bit about a former king of Sparta who was exiled from his country when he recommended they align themselves with Persia's King Darius. So when he peeps kicked him out, he naturally fled to Persia. When Xerxes launched the campaign against Greece, ex-kingy came along as an adviser.

Now, here's the cool story. Herodotus heard that before the troops left Persia, Damaratus (ex-kingy) sent a message of warning home to Sparta. Kinda irrelevant since it didn't come to anything, and no one claimed he included anything but, basically, and "I told you so" in the note. But Herodotus told us about it because it was so clever.

See, Damaratus took a typical message tablet--hinged wooden box that opens kinda like a book; inside are two wax surfaces, on which the message is pressed with a stylus. Close it up, and voila--your message is protected for the journey. But not exactly secure. Damaratus, though, did something never before recorded. He peeled off the wax and scratched his true message into the wood, then put the wax back on and pressed a benign one into the wax.

Of course, he peeps back in Sparta had no clue why exiled-dude was writing them with something so useless and thought long and hard on it until finally someone said, "Hey, let's look underneath the wax." Took them months to figure this out, apparently.

This was such a fun story, but there was absolutely no way I could work it into Jewel of Persia. So I stole it instead. ;-) I took the cleverness of the idea and made it the standard way two of my bad guys communicate when they're apart.

Gotta love poetic license.

Hope everyone has a happy Wednesday!